CMCR9 at the Kelsall Steam Fair

Steve Harris with North 3. Copyright resides with the original holder.

current owner, Steve Harris with North 3. Copyright resides with the original holder.













The outside broadcast truck, BBC Manchester’s North 3/ Pebble Mill’s original CM1, CMCR9, will be on public display at the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Fair, between Tarvin and Delamere, Cheshire, next weekend 27th and 28th June. Details of the show may be found on their website:

The EMI 2001 and Pye PC80 cameras will be on static display only, owing to severe power limitations. However, pictures will be available from a couple Ikegami HL79s, and most of the scanner will be working (touch wood)!

We will be very pleased to see any friends or former colleagues who can make it there. Kelsall is a super show with lots of attractions.

Jerry Clegg

Pebble Mill at One

Pebble Mill @ 1 EJ










Photo from Eurwyn Jones, no reproduction without permission.

Pebble Mill at One rehearsal in the Foyer studio.

From the comments left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page, the consensus is that it is Tony Wigley on camera, and Andy Payne cable-bashing. The lighting rig and EMI camera suggest a date circa 1980.

Please add a comment if you can identify the singer at the piano.

CMCR 9/ North 3 Outings 2014 – Jerry Clegg

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.



North 3 Wins an “Oscar”

The last BBC Type 2 colour scanner still on the road, CMCR9/North 3, has won an award. The Duncan Neale Award for Excellence in Preservation has been awarded by the British Vintage Wireless Society to Steve Harris, the owner of the restored LO5 / Midland / North 3 OB unit CMCR9, which entered service in 1969. Steve’s self-effacing acceptance speech lavished praise on his small team of dedicated volunteers and their multifarious talents, but not mentioned was his own multi-skilled determination without which the North 3 Project would never have got off the ground.

Steve and his team spent the winter getting ready for the new show season and preparing new treats for the visitors. October saw Steve H  produce the first pictures for many years from a 44 year old EMI 2001 camera and December saw the first powering-up by Steve Jones of a very rare Philips PC80 camera originally from North 1/CMCR7. Richard Ellis, former Chief Engineer of Pye TVT Ltd has restored to full operation the original Pye sync pulse generators which he designed back in the 60s. This involved finding equivalents and replacing more than 100 discrete transistors.

Meanwhile, Eric Hignett has been building an amazing generator, powered by a Ford Transit diesel engine. In ‘proof of concept’ form, this was a real Heath Robinson affair on a trailer, with a motor-bike silencer and speed maintained by a modified cruise control for a car. It worked and the first run, apart from producing a tremendous amount of noise, delivered 40 amps at 230 volts, which powered three aircon units and other auxilliaries in North 3, all electronics being kept well away from this unproven beast for the test run. Eric went away to scratch his head, refine the design and try to make it produce less noise!

North 3 was booked at the time of writing to take part in the Cheshire Commercial Vehicle Run on 27th April starting at Lymm Truckstop on the M6. This is a trip of over 100 miles. The first public show this year was at the Llandudno Transport Festival on 3, 4 and 5 May, followed by the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Rally at Kelsall near Tarvin, Cheshire, on 21and 22 June.

Kelsall is a special event for ERF vehicles, originally manufactured at nearby Sandbach, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the enthusiasts’ club. Steve is hoping to take his latest acquisition, ex-BBC Type 7 scanner LO23, (an ERF E6) to display alongside North 3. Restoration has not yet started, so it will be just as it was when rescued from imminent destruction at a scrap yard following decommissioning by SIS.

Later in the summer we expect North 3 to be at the Wilmslow Show in July and the highlight of the season will be another appearance at the popular Onslow Park Steam Rally near Shrewbury over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Jerry Clegg

(This article is due for publication in Prospero’s June edition)


The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Keith Brook (Scouse): ‘Of all my memories of that scanner, I think having so much fun with the riggers was the best. They really were the salt of the earth.’

CMCR9’s Outings 2013 – Jerry Clegg

CMCR9 at Onslow, photo Steve Harris

CMCR9 at Onslow, photo Steve Harris














CMCR9 at Onslow, photo by Steve Harris

CMCR9’s cameras at Onslow, photo by Steve Harris














The restored heritage TV outside broadcast truck CMCR9 successfully completed all the summer commitments with its appearance at the Shrewsbury Steam Fair on 25th/26th August. The vehicle itself has run without a problem all summer long. This year’s shows were at Kelsall, Astle park, Wilmslow and Onslow Park with an additional private demonstration for the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club. Steve Harris and Steve Jones restored a little more of the ancient equipment to operation for each show and most of the sound desk is now working quite well, although the PPMs are still giving some trouble at the moment.

The Wilmslow Show took place in the middle of the July heatwave with the temperature reaching 30 degrees. Fortunately the show organizers provided us with a large 45 Kva generator which more than met our needs and enabled the air conditioning to be used for the first time. Having received some recent attention, the two aircon units over the cab worked faultlessly all day and people were coming into the scanner to cool off. This was very unlike the previous outing at Kelsall on 23rd June when folk were coming inside to get out of the cold squally wind!

The last three shows all took place in good weather which attracted lots of visitors, keen to see how we were getting on. A number of former staff visited us who had not been to see us before.  We were fortunate in getting excellent pitches for all the shows with plenty of room for our static display which included PC 80 and EMI 2001 cameras. The main problem now is that the power demand of the working equipment exceeds the power available from Steve’s 6.5Kva generator. He’s looking around for something more substantial!

Thanks to all those who sent reminiscences of the Anglsey Climb OB back in 1970, produced by Alan Chivers. What a pity we don’t see shows like that any more.

The only remaining scheduled public appearance of North3 this year is to an exhibition at Salford University Media Centre towards the end of October.

The pictures (from the Onslow Park Rally) are by Steve Harris.

Jerry Clegg

For more details about North 3 see:

For details about the Salford Technology Fair on 19th and 20th Oct, use this link:

Studio Operations (part 9) – Ray Lee


Allowance rate card 1982

Allowance rate card 1982














Schedule A and the O.B. Mafia

One of the results of the BBC at one time being part of the Civil Service, was its adoption of a lot of the terms and conditions of service that were current at that time. Things like a generous pension scheme, retirement at 60, good holiday entitlements, and good allowances for people working away from their normal base. Whenever the BBC managers tried to change any of this, the Union would generally put it to dispute and status quo would prevail, such was the power of Unions before Mrs Thatcher, that more often than not things didn’t change much.

My understanding was that Schedule A allowances were convenient for the BBC, as it enabled them to save on the administration of booking people into hotels and arranging transport, for staff manning outside broadcasts. Basically the staff themselves undertook booking Hotels/Guest houses and arranging their own transport to the appropriate venue. In some ways I personally think this was a bit of a cop out by BBC managers, but for the staff involved it could be quite lucrative if they “worked the system”. The net result of this was that those on the O.B. rotation defended their position in staying in this privileged position quite vigorously. Some of the arguments in favour were perfectly valid, e.g. CMCR9 had different cameras to the studio, so those not having been on O.B.s would not be familiar with them. On the other hand it maintained the exclusivity, with no opportunity for engineers not on the rotation to gain that experience. As scanners were tight for space anyway it would be difficult to have a supernumerary engineer to gain experience, and the team needed to work well together as most O.B.s were quite pressured. Thus the exclusive nature earned the team the nick name “Scanner Mafia” or just “Mafia” for short.

some of the 'Scanner Mafia'. Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission

some of the ‘Scanner Mafia’. Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission













I don’t remember who first coined the term, probably either John Kimberly or Mike Lee, but both used it regularly, as did a number of other engineers who were not part of what at face value seemed to be an exclusive club. People did break into it over the years, and I myself had 2 periods working on O.B.s, but the first was not until we were using another scanner equipped with EMI 2001 cameras. My second period was with the then new type 5 scanner with Link cameras shortly before I left operations to join engineering services where I remained for the rest of my career.

Schedule A used properly enabled one to stay in approx 3 star accommodation, and covered costs of reasonable quality restaurants for additional meals. In theory if one overspent slightly in one place, that would be compensated by underspend in another. In practice, many engineers chose to stay in the cheapest accommodation possible, go to cheap burger bars or restaurants, and pocket the not inconsiderable difference as a tax free lump sum. Additionally those living some distance from base, but on the right side for the O.B. engaged in what was colloquially known as a “flyer”. They stayed in their own home, travelled to and from the O.B. site each day, and claimed Schedule A as if they had stayed on location and as a result profited very nicely thank you. It is reckoned that some engineers almost doubled their take home pay in this way. Certainly a strong incentive for the group to maintain the status quo. The management knew it was happening but turned a blind eye as challenging it would almost certainly have triggered a union dispute.

A few years later, it became necessary to submit receipts to show that there had been expenses of the kind that Schedule A allowances were intended to defray. That came in at about the time that I had around 3 months working with O.B.s. Even so without even trying I ended up better off by a good amount. On the whole the Schedule A allowance was quite generous although it has to be said that certain expensive locations would more than use it up. In those cases it was quite often agreed to take actuality payments, although those were strictly receipts only, and any expenses for which there was no receipt (like beer down the local pub), had to be waived. Nevertheless the O.B. crew did very nicely out of it for the most part, to the great envy of those who were working in the studio, and not on the rotation.

Ray Lee


The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Pete Simpkin: ‘Fascinating the world of OB expenses. I recall in my early days being the engineer for coverage of a three day cricket match.This involved three nights away because I could not drive the vehicle back to base after the whole day duty at the last day of the match. One of the jobs I was required to do there was to tape a half hour ‘audition commentary’ in one of the periods we were not on air with the regular commentators. In those days you had to fill in a recording form which went with the tape and a copy was carbonned for Accounts. I happened to not tick an obscure box marked ‘shared’ on this form so it looked as if I had travelled the 60 miles to the location and stayed three overnights away just for a 30 minute recording! Some weeks later I was hauled up before someone in Accounts as the operation as documented was ‘not very economical’!!’